The Case of the Missing Bodies - A Sherlock Holmes Story

OUTSIDE SCREAMING "Murder! There's been a murder! Mr Holmes! Come quick!"

[Holmes stirs from the obituaries column in The Times, walks over to the fire where, after warming himself, secures the guard and places his Meerschaum pipe on its rest on the mantlepiece]

HOLMES "Watson, bring me my coat, it appears that there is a disturbance".

[Outside in the street, A crowd throngs around Holmes]

HOLMES "Please, can you all calm down. what is the trouble?"

CROWD "There s been a MURDER well more than one murder, its terrible! It's down the Eeyems. Mrs Turkey. She's DEAD! And Mr Rand, And the Hungarian lass and the Russki kid.

HOLMES "Come Watson, best we pay a visit, if for no reason other than to calm this over-excitable lot."

[Arriving on scene - The Eeyems is a higgledy hotchpotch of narrow streets once populated by the poor but the arrival of an aspirational young has seen pretences of gentrification, however the underlying squalor is never far away. Holmes and Watson are let in to a dingy hovel by an attendent constable where an old woman is propped gasping against a table.]

HOLMES "Ah Mrs Turkey, I see that you are breathing. A good sign of a lack of death. Watson, would you be so kind?

Dr WATSON "Her PMI is slightly weaker than the last reading but apart from a bit of bruising to the FX causing some rate shock she's not in too bad a way".

HOLMES "Hmm .. so not DEAD then Watson".

Dr WATSON "No sir. Not Dead."

HOLMES "Not a murder then. No."

BYSTANDER  "But, but she WILL die though and THEN it will be a murder"

HOLMES "It will only be murder when I say it is a murder. What makes you so sure that she will be murdered"

BYSTANDER "Well look at her, she's weak and feeble, hasn't been able to defend herself against the last attackers so she's just bound to be murdered"

HOLMES " Hmm .. Looks to me like we have a simple case of GBH. Constable, move these gawkers away and let us proceed to Mr Rand's house. Come Watson."

[Arriving at Mr Rand's house]

HOLMES "Good evening. May I see the corpse please?"

CONSTABLE "Err, it's not quite a corpse sir."

HOLMES "In that case may I see the not quite a corpse? Where may I find it"?

CONSTABLE "Sitting at the table drinking a cup of tea with an ice compress on his eye"

HOLMES "Watson, what do you make of this?"

Dr WATSON " PMI A little lower but really nothing to worry about apart from that punch in his eye"

VOICE FROM CROWD - "No, no. He must be dead, we gave him such a kicki…."

[Crowd falls quiet]

HOLMES "Sorry? "

VOICE FROM CROWD " No nothing, but he looks really ill so if you come back later he will definitely be dead"

HOLMES "Hmm I see. Constable, make sure none of these people can get to Mr Rand and let's move on. Where's that Hungarian au pair? And is there any news on the Ruski Boy?

CONSTABLE "The Ruski Boy is fine, his PMI is pretty weak at 48 but he's a big strong lad and he'll pull through. As for the au pair, she's popped down to Miss Brazil's where they're talking about local rights. They're apparently planning some protest against EM cruelty and are demanding large donations from rich countries"

HOLMES "Not dead then? Neither she nor Miss Brazil are dead."

CONSTABLE "No, Hungary just had a bit of a scuffle with a debt collector down the ally but she looks ok. We had the Doc check her out. PMI was 57.2, fit as a fiddle"

HOLMES "Hmm... Despite what the crowds are saying it appears that there has NOT been a murder. But something odd is going on. Why are the crowds so convinced that murder is afoot when there is no body?

CONSTABLE "Well there have been reports that a man with a beard hasn't been seen around here"

Dr WATSON "HASN'T been seen around here? Since when has someone distinctly NOT being at the scene made him a suspect for murder?"

CONSTABLE "Well that's the thing sir. People are saying that if he ISN'T seen then people will die and it will be him that's murdered them"

HOLMES "I see, so let me understand this. If he isn't here then people will die, or more importantly, people THINK they will die. So that implies that he must be giving them something that either IS keeping them alive, or is just thought to keeping them alive. Hmmm".

WATSON "So you think that if he isn't seen then maybe the crowd think that a person is going to die, so they sort of, errr, help them on their way so to speak?"

HOLMES " Well Watson, I don't think this crowd is of the kind persuasion to buy them a first class all in luxury one way trip to Dignitas for a painless lifting of their mortal coil, no Watson. But I wouldn't put it past them to pop round and relieve them of a few possessions that they won't be needing in the afterlife and perhaps administer a little boot action to help them on their way. But first we had better track down this bearded mystery man"

CONSTABLE  "The Inspector's just called. He says he has something of interest"

[At the police station]

INSPECTOR "Sir, I think you'd better see this. Its a report from Traffic. They've been checking the CCTV and found something odd. Every month a large truck with United States number plates drives through the neighbourhood. And guess what, the driver has a beard"

HOLMES "The possesion of facial hair within the vehicular conveyancing industry is not exactly uncommon, so I presume you have further circumstantial evidence?"

INSPECTOR "Turns out that the truck is delivering cash from a company called Fedorama Enterprises to its customers in the USA, but .. here watch this . " [constable puts video on play]

HOLMES "Ah indeed. Would you look at that."

DR WATSON "The back doors aren't shut properly and money is leaking into the street and see! All the locals are coming out and grabbing it! Look there's Mr Rand and is that Mrs Turkey?"

HOLMES "Yes Watson, but they aren't alone, they are all at it. So I have two questions. What has happened to this truck? And, more importantly, why have the crowd specifically picked on the victims we saw today"

INSPECTOR "I can help with the truck question. It would appear that Fedorama Enterprises have decided to phase out production, so the truck is making fewer trips."

HOLMES "I see, now if I was in a position of depending on what came off that truck I'd start to worry about my future if it's visits started diminishing. A crowd suffering fear is a dangerous beast Inspector and is liable to be whipped up into making some rash choices in the heat of the moment."

DR WATSON "So what happened to the victims we saw today?"

HOLMES "Did they have any savings. Has anyone checked their bank accounts? "

INSPECTOR "We have Mr Holmes, Not a bean, well Hungary did but turns out she owes it to Mr Swiss"

HOLMES "Ah I see, so when times were good they didn't put anything away for rainy days."

HOLMES "Well it would look, Inspector, as though the crowd themselves, the ones crying murder, are not exactly without responsibility. They appear to have meted out their own punishment upon their brethren for the very fact that they are the weakest in the community. Of course the crowd can hardly cry "Murder" and have a murderer convicted and compensation sought if there is no murder. For a murder you need a body. Our victims, despite the best efforts of the crowd are, though bruised, very much alive and the expectation of someone to be dead in the future does not qualify as murder. But this does not mean that a crime has not been committed. Inspector, we need to talk to that truck driver.

[Later in the Interview room]

HOLMES "So Mr Bernanke, did you not know that money was blowing from your truck as you made your trip through the neighbourhood of Eeyems? You did but you didn't care? Did you not see how it was affecting people's lives? Ah, you are just a truck driver and it wasn't your business? Can I put it to you Mr Bernanke that you knew exactly what was happening and far from being concerned about the leaks of money from your truck you were happy to see the locals, who were picking up that money, using it to buy goods in your company's shops? As maybe? And no, you are right, there aren't any rules against that. Which may well be unfortunate as your actions have caused the community a lot of distress. However Mr Bernanke you are not leaving here a free man. You are guilty of one crime.


[Later in Sherlock's rooms with fire glowing and the distinctive aroma of pipe tobacco whisping in the lazy air]

HOLMES Well Watson, an interesting case. But one which proves how the rule of unintended consequences abuts so closely to that of the reality of intended consequences. And whilst we have no bodies, we have no murder. The crowd wanted Mr Bernanke's truck to keep rolling but in their eagerness for compensation for a crime committed against them, they fabricated their own evidence overlooking the fact that the victims they provided were not in fact dead. We must remember that whilst correlations in actions and reactions may exist, indeed even when causality and correlation are established, neither imply responsibility. And even if responsibility is established then we cannot prosecute if no Law has been broken. But, unfortunately Watson, we should now expect another reaction. For when the law is seen to be lacking by those who wish their will upon others, they will raise their flag of last resort. That of "Moral Responsibility". I look forward to tomorrow's newspapers with a hardly bated breath."
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Click here for comments
February 3, 2014 at 1:54 PM ×

Marvellous. That made my day !

February 3, 2014 at 2:11 PM × looks like Holmes is taking his cues from Lestrade these days. Using PMIs as the sole criterion of health of the victims. Tsk...tsk. I wonder what M. Dupin is up to these days?

February 3, 2014 at 3:58 PM ×

Astonishing, Holmes... your powers of deduction never cease to amaze me.

Btw, a small typo (caused by Mr Gates' software no doubt). Should be "mete" out instead of "meet".

Agreed on EMs. The dog that didn't die in the night. Domestically, as always, LB is astonished that not only was he right about the softness of Uncle Sam's recovery but it is FAR WORSE than we expected. Weather being blamed even now on the financial media.

Our December move into munis and REITs now looking less like insanity and more like inspiration.

February 3, 2014 at 6:16 PM ×

February 3, 2014 at 7:39 PM ×

so.... they kept the market until bonuses got voted... then trashed it

DImon bonus from 11 mil to 20?

enough said

dunno why anyone is trying to find any other justification to current price action

it is not over

2013 was the hold up of the decade , and the return to normal ain't going to feel normal for the dumb money that got stuffed above 1600

you guys made a great call but covered far too early

February 3, 2014 at 8:33 PM ×

Amps .. tell me about it. really didn't see the hight of the US wall we just hit, though LB has been on the front of the ship shouting "ICE", nor the depth of the EM dip. Or perhaps. the SPEED. Braking distance of this beast has been shorter than that Leopard tank in the dutch confidence test. So how far do things fall to see the EMs actually rescued by the crapness of the US econ?

abee crombie
February 3, 2014 at 9:14 PM ×

That was a nice big out of line ISM, should put a dent in a lot of US eco models, at least until we see next months print or some of the other surveys. Bonds sure loved it!

Breaking december lows in Spoos looks big but lets put it in perspective, EVERYONE was bullish since Nov (year end, then 2014 forecasts) so its not a huge surprise to me. 200 day at around 1700 looks good for a bounce, maybe by the end of the week. I would be filling the boots anything under 1650.

But this certainly looks like a cliff dive, so patience is needed. My guess is that we probably dont bottom until march or so then rally back to the highs later in the year only to end around flat. You heard it here first.

February 3, 2014 at 11:11 PM ×

Very nice TMM!

Very silly that the economic system that is now run by over 7 billion people in the world is so deeply affected by one single entity. And when that entity coughs, the rest of the world thinks it's going to die and start screaming and generating "evidence" to support that assumption. Fortunately I bet we will get a new driver for the money truck soon, a nice old lady. The truck will also be replaced by a bigger one next time, after which people can start breathing again.

But I feel the concern for valuations. If EM currencies continue to take the boot, it will start effecting their ability to buy stuff from Uncle Sam. And if EM indeed has been the biggest generator to propel earnings and sales growth, then what will be left if we take that away?

I think stock buybacks have been another nice contributor for EPS. Unfortunately many companies are now much more leveraged than they were eg. in 2007, so we will see diminishing effects from this too.

In retrospect perhaps we should have been a bit more wary about the whole economic growth scheme, since buyback in essense implicates that investing in "real assets" is a much more unproductive alternative. The good thing is that if these companies don't dilute the sharecount, prices won't go as low as they did last time. The prices only need to return to form a new basis to present more accurately the modest growth that has been going on in the real economy.

For the PMI number: well it's all about a game called "Beat the expectations" created by Wall Street, that's based on relativity of expectations and outcomes. I bet someone made a lot of money on this huge shocker and will continue to do it again, when the masses least expect it. The market indeed likes to make fools of the general consensus, which has been proved again and again.

I wouldn't yet draw a line from such a short datapoint. Monthly fluctuations can and will happen. Maybe it would be even more worrying if they didn't. Just keep some dry powder and rake up those dividends. New highs will come over time, as will the bigger truck with a leaky backdoor cruising through the neighborhood.

February 4, 2014 at 12:46 AM ×

I expected red tooth in claw in the charts. Horses are so much more predictable. Just look at the Gold chart and throw darts..maybe.The
Trusty Climactic readings I watch ( here's looking at you precious) have the Nazzy dropping further by 10 pct.
Be gone! I'm on holidays and these sports stats are doing my head in..not:)